What Makes Memories

Think back to three days ago, and try to remember what you ate for lunch.

Not too hard? Okay, what about three weeks ago?

Chances are, you probably won’t remember. I recently found a birthday card that I wrote for my little brother when he turned four; I was eight at the time. The birthday card read:

“Happy Birthday Matthew! Have fun being four! I don’t remember being four, so try your best to remember so you can tell me how it is.”

Granted, I rearranged some grammar so it would make more sense for you to read, but that was the gist of it. When I was little, I used to try really hard to focus on minute details in my life, hoping that if I did that, I wouldn’t forget them later on. Now, unfortunately, all I remember is that I used to focus on minute details…without actually remembering what they were.

So what is it that makes certain things stick in our brain, and lets others pass through?

When I reached sixth grade, my parents stopped being able to help me with my math homework. They took a look at my book, lowered their glasses, squinting, and said “sorry, we’ll find a tutor.” Sixth grade math? And they already couldn’t help me? I suppose in this case, they were unable to help me because they weren’t regularly using the mathematical concepts we were using in their everyday lives, causing the information to be forgotten.

grade6math2lA similar problem happens with language, except it is slightly different. Language is best learned at an early age, while the child is still able to replicate the sounds he or she hears. However, even with young children, if their native language is not constantly used and practiced, it is possible for it to be lost. This is an even more frequent occurrence with high school students and adults. If a language is learned later on in life, it must be continuously rehearsed in order to be maintained at the same caliber that it has always been.

287084-the-best-language-learning-softwareMost people make it through their high school language courses, and almost immediately after not being “required” to know the material, forget it. Sometimes it can be brought back, but it is never a simple task, and can sometimes be like learning the language all over again.

So what is it in our brains that allow us to remember certain situations, dreams, people, or ideas, that only came to us once. The previous two examples proved that we can even forget things that were once essential to our living, and yet I can still remember a dream I had at the age of five where I was biking down the street running away from a mailman hoping to cross the bridge and block it in time to escape. I know this doesn’t make too much sense, but it was vivid and real in my eyes.

Making memorable experiences is difficult. Presentations are an excellent example of this. Try to think back to a presentation you watched in school. Any presentation. What about that presentation made you remember it? Was it interactive? Did it relate to you on a personal level? Whatever it was, it was important enough to you to occupy space in your brain. People will be much more likely to enjoy, and remember your presentation or idea if you spend the time to make it an experience. An unforgettable¬†experience. I don’t exactly know how to do this, but I think food is always a good place to start.


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